there are singing creatures here that live in the drains after rainfall; they make a sound like falsetto cows or wind instruments. walking to dinner in lively Little India, where the smell of incense and spice overwhelms the neutral smell of the city’s clean air, I heard this mysterious sound from far away. crouched, listening in the dark, I asked passers-by what it was, but no one knew. returning home, I heard the same sound coming from an open gully, and there was the culprit: a fist sized frog that inflates its diaphanous chest like a balloon and lets go with a ‘warrrrupppp.’ he was so funny and small, and able to emit such reverberating calls! also, across the street was a black kitten teasing a roach in the street, doing a spastic cat-dance. suddenly, the neighborhood was full of quirks.
an afternoon run between thunderstorms took me up and over a long, inclined highway overpass, cars trucks & taxis racing by me, all of us 60’ above the outlet to the bay. after descending I turned around and ran back under the overpass, the most beautiful yet, an empty field of red dirt contrasting against the graceful, bright concrete pillars…and an antennae car racecourse, carved into the ground, where three men were testing their mini-motors up and over a ramp-jump that catapulted the toys 3 feet into the air! back at the water’s edge and still underneath the highway two fishermen were hanging out, enjoying the emptiness of place. later, crossing a sinewy pedestrian bridge I had to pause while some students filmed a video of a runner. on the return route, I passed the Golden Mile complex, whose canted, open façade of repetitive units has turned into an informal quilt of various additions and adjustments to each balcony.
almost back home, I passed an alley on the outskirts of Kampong Glam. here the shophouses have not (yet) been renovated; some roofs are caving in, or look charred. everything is enclosed by thick walls, except for one opening from which came the screams of a man in pain…there was jostling, crashing, and a man emerged from this courtyard wreckage carrying some bloody-looking rags. in a panic I ran past, then was lost in a daze as to what to do: call the cops? go back and intervene? how come everyone on the main street looks so non-chalant? creeping back to the site, trying to hide behind cars and posts lest I be recognized and abducted, I witness a group of young men and women exit the courtyard carrying video equipment. ‘oh…are you making a movie?’ ‘yes, a Chinese gangster drama.’ I start laughing hysterically; I had been truly terrified in Singapore, my mind racing: “so THIS is how violent crime happens here… people pretend like it’s not happening, and no one calls the police.” I feel as if this last incident encapsulates something about this city.
so, finally, my heart races and all in one afternoon: with adrenaline on a vertiginous highway run, with glee watching middle aged men doing car flips under that same highway, with terror and then amusement past a bloody movie-shoot, and finally, before much needed sleep, with curiosity and appreciation at the little creatures that live under the wet roads.
these are precious moments in Singapore…
"The city is being swept away by the metropolis. This action does not just replace one noun with another, but radically turns one state of affairs into a state of perpetual motion. As a collective action -- a verb more than a noun -- the metropolis destabilizes our concepts of time and place. With the dissolution of the city into the forever- emerging metropolis, our existence slides into permanent mobility." - L. Lerup, in After the City